Florida basketball: 3 takeaways from the Gators' 66-63 loss to Texas A&M

Kevin Brockway
The Gainesville Sun
Jan 4, 2023; Gainesville, Florida, USA; Texas A&M Aggies forward Julius Marble (34) and guard Dexter Dennis (0) defend Florida Gators forward Colin Castleton (12)  during the second half at Exactech Arena at the Stephen C. O'Connell Center. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Florida found itself in another nail biter against Texas A&M in its second SEC game of the season on Wednesday night.

And again, the Gators were unable to execute down the stretch on both ends of the floor in a 66-63 loss to the Aggies before an announced 7,023 at the O'Connell Center.

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The Gators (7-7, 0-2 SEC) have lost their last two games by a combined six points. Overall, Florida has lost four of its last five and hasn't beaten a Power 6 opponent since knocking off Oregon State 81-68 on Nov. 25.

"There's no magic fairy dust that we can sprinkle on guys and say 'Do this and we're going to go win,' " Florida coach Todd Golden said. "No. Defend, rebound, take care of the ball and make some shots. Over the course of the season, we haven't been able to do that at the same time."

Here are three takeaways from the game:

Jan 4, 2023; Gainesville, Florida, USA; Texas A&M Aggies guard Manny Obaseki (35) controls the ball while defended by Florida Gators guard Trey Bonham (2) during the first half at Exactech Arena at the Stephen C. O'Connell Center. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Gators couldn't handle Texas A&M's pressure

Texas A&M converted 20 Florida turnovers into 21 points, which weighed heavily in the outcome. Down the stretch, Florida turned the ball over twice, with center Colin Castleton whistled for a travel and guard Trey Bonham called for an offensive foul with 7.6 seconds left.

"We had 20 turnovers, which was, insane," Castleton said. "You can't win games when you turn the ball over that much. They just played a better game."

Bonham turned the ball over seven times, while Castleton turned it over six times. Florida had issues dealing with Texas A&M's traps at midcourt and fired a few ill-advised long cross-court pass attempts that were stolen.

"We shot 17 less field goal attempts than the other team," Golden said. "That's a bad formula for winning."

Florida came out flat in the first half

The Gators found themselves in an early 34-23 hole in the first half. Florida shot just 37.5 percent from the field in the first half and 20 percent (2-10) from three-point range.

"We allowed them to dictate the tempo and dictate what was going on, on both ends of the floor, which was really disappointing," Golden said. "We just weren't settled."

After Texas A&M jumped to an early 20-12 lead, Florida cut the deficit to 20-17 on a Bonham 3-pointer. But Castleton was whistled for a technical foul for staring at Texas A&M's bench, which started an 8-0 Aggies run that extended their lead back to 28-17.

"I said boom or something like that," Castleton said. "I think they changed that rule this year where you can't look at the bench. I'm a leader, I'm a fifth-year senior. I can't do that."

Alex Fudge in foul trouble

Florida starting sophomore forward Alex Fudge, who has been playing well of late, was limited to 21 minutes due to foul trouble and fouled out with 5:06 remaining. He finished with 3 points, 5 rebounds and 1 steal.

With the 6-foot-9 Fudge out, Florida was forced to play smaller down the stretch with 6-6 forward Kowacie Reeves at the power forward spot. Florida held a slight 35-34 edge in rebounding, but Texas A&M still managed 13 offensive rebounds, which it converted into 8 second-chance points.

Without Fudge as an extra rim protector, Texas A&M guard Wade Taylor was able to get an easy drive and floating basket with 41 seconds left for the go-ahead score that put the Aggies ahead to stay, 65-63.

"We had to play a little smaller for the majority of the second half," Golden said. "I thought we did a really good job fighting. We did an OK job being undersized on the glass but again in a bang-bang game like this, a game that comes down to the final possession, it's one stop that can make a difference."